2019 Gold Dome Update

Kelsey CreehanFeatured News

By Jennifer Goodrum, CDA Director of Government Relations 
From the Spring 2019 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association

The Colorado General Assembly’s 2019 session is past the halfway mark. More than 450 bills have been introduced, with nearly 200 additional bills still anticipated. The CDA monitors all dental-related activity at the Capitol daily and advocates on your behalf. As the session gets into prime time, here are a few quick updates on key dental bills:

  • Consideration of dental-related state budget items is underway. This year, the CDA proposed increasing the annual maximum cap for Medicaid adult dental patients. The state’s Joint Budget Committee (JBC) recently voted to increase the cap for Medicaid adult dental services to $1,500 per year (currently that cap is $1,000 per year). This cap increase must still go through full legislative approval process, but it’s inclusion in the general JBC budget proposal makes it much more likely to ultimately happen. Securing support for this cap increase is incredible work by our lobbying team in what has been an extremely tough legislative year. A funding increase is also being considered for the state’s Senior Dental Care program. With this program, the CDA has requested a robust and meaningful review of program administration in exchange for potential rate reductions that would pave the path for added funding for the program. The goal is to ensure that the program continues to operate as efficiently as possible and maintains a sufficient dentist provider network as it grows to serve more seniors. We have encountered major pushback in asking for the administrative review of the program, but hope we are nearing resolution on this issue.
  • HB 1038, a bill that would add dental coverage under CHP+ for pregnant moms, passed the House in late February on a nearly unanimous vote. The bill passed the Senate Health Committee unanimously on March 13. CDA President Dr. Karen Foster testified in support of this bill during the rennet “bomb cyclone” blizzard. Thanks, Dr. Foster! The bill will now seek approval from the Senate Appropriations Committee before going before the full Senate for final approval. The bill has great support and is expected to continue to progress through the process smoothly.
  • HB 1088, a bill to continue a tax credit to incentivize more rural preceptor sites, faced tough hearings before the House Finance Committee after passing its first committee (House Rural Affairs) with unanimous support. The bill passed and will now be considered by the House Appropriations Committee before being considered by the full House. CDA members were sent an action alert and encouraged to share their program experience with legislators at cdaonline.org/aarural.
  • HB 1172, a bill to make non-substantive organizational changes to Title 12, which contains the practice acts for all regulated occupations and professions in the state (including dental), passed the House at the end of February. It passed its Senate committee hearing on March 4 with no changes. While this bill should be non-controversial as a non-substantive clean up, HB 1172 became a bit of a political football in recent days. Senate Republicans sought to use the bill as an obstruction to slow down what they perceive as rushed votes on many top policy priorities of the Democrats (oil and gas setbacks, death penalty, family leave, etc.). Senate Republicans asked that the 2000-page bill be read “at length” (i.e. word for word). Senate Democrats responded by having three computers brought in, to simultaneously read the portions of the bill at warp speed (which resulted in non-understandable cacophony). There is now a lawsuit about the compliance of these actions with Senate rules, and the Title 12 bill has been politicized in a way never expected. The CDA has been waiting on the passage of HB 1172 to pave the way for a separate, non-substantive bill to reorganize the Dental Practice Act. The CDA lobbyists have permission for a late bill to take care of the related Dental Practice Act reorganization effort, but that is contingent on the now-questionable passage of HB 1172.
  • SB 79, a bill that would require e-prescribing of all opioid medications by 2023 for dentists (other prescribers have shorter implementation timelines) passed the Senate in early February and passed the final House votes in mid-March. There were some slight amendments made in the House, so it will require concurrence from the Senate before going to the governor for signature. The CDA secured the extended implementation timeframe in the bill for dentists, as well as exceptions for very low volume prescribers and practices where implementation would pose a significant financial hardship.
  • Several bills aimed at reducing youth tobacco use are being considered this session, including HB 1033 and HB 1076. These bills would allow local jurisdictions to increase taxes on tobacco products, potentially raise the minimum age for purchase and work to clarify that e-cigarettes and vaping devices are regulated as other tobacco products under state law. HB 1033 has passed both the House and Senate and is awaiting signature by the governor. HB 1076 passed its first House committee is awaiting consideration by the full House.

Healthcare providers have been under significant scrutiny this legislative session given leadership initiatives to examine the high costs of healthcare. Bills to address hospital costs, coverage costs, insurer practices (any willing provider, prior authorization processes), and billing practices (out of network, wage garnishment and liens for medical debt) are under consideration daily and have not always reflected favorably on providers. Several additional bills are still anticipated this session, including reforms to medical malpractice caps, which could further aggravate the already contentious environment.

In addition, with over 40% of the General Assembly in new seats this session, there is a major learning curve in the Capitol as well as a general healthcare acumen void in the Senate. These factors have made the session one of the more challenging in recent history. Despite the challenges, the CDA lobbying team has managed to accomplish many favorable outcomes, and we anticipate success for dentistry throughout the session.